Hear the Light Singing is the sophomore album of pianist-composer Myra Melford’s Fire all-star And Water Quintet, with guitarist Mary Halvorson, tenor and soprano sax player Ingrid Laubrock, cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Lesley Mok (who replaced Susie Ibarra), following 2022’s For The Love Of Fire And Water. Like the debut album of the quintet, it draws its inspiration from the same set of Cy Twombly drawings. The new album is named specifically for Melford’s interpretation of the sunlight on the Mediterranean in Gaeta, Italy, where Twombly made those drawings and the synesthetic sensation it creates. The album was recorded at Firehouse 12 in New Haven in November 2022.
Hear the Light features five movements, an «Insertions» suite composed by Melford for the quintet tour, recorded after the quintet’s tour in the United States, and written for the distinct voices of the quintet. All five musicians are featured unaccompanied as she introduces the five «Insertions», and these introductions set the atmosphere of these pieces. Melford introduces the first one where she juggles between angular contrapuntal lines and rock-like changes; Reid on the second emotional-romantic one; Mok on the third epic centerpiece that stresses the quintet’s fiery, tangled improvisations that never lose their fierce energy; Halvorson on the fourth one with her delicate layers of almost baroque-like looping riffs; and Laubrock on the fifth, and last one, a lyrical yet jubilant, almost danceable piece that was meant to be an encore for the ensemble. Melford says that most «Insertions» on the album are the first takes of the quintet played in the studio.
The quintet does sound now like a working band, employing Melford’s wise and meticulously crafted compositions for its empathic and layered dynamics. It highlights remarkably how the strong individual voices, each musician with his own rich language and distinct palette of sounds, enrich the colorful and playful compositions as a tight and focused band. This most impressive «Insertions» suite also presents Melford’s open and inclusive vision of jazz and encompasses elements of Third Stream, chamber jazz, free jazz and free improvisation, but still relying on strong melodic veins and playful grooves. This suite also demonstrates how Melford addressed the shifting states of the Mediterranean Sea and its waves and light and weather cycles while corresponding with Twombly’s work. «I think there’s a real playfulness and lightheartedness in some of Twombly’s work that maybe gets overlooked because it’s so abstract», Medford concludes. «But there’s an expression of joy that’s very present».
A true masterpiece.
Myra Melford (piano), Ingrid Laubrock (saxophone), Tomeka Reid (cello), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Lesley Mok (drums)